Homemade Larabars are a little magical. They taste like homemade candy bars, Snickers to be exact, but they’re nutritionally dense and oh-so-good for you. Read on for the tasty details.
I was a little late to the energy bar party. It was a matter of semantics. Energy bars. That’s really not a very appetizing name. In fact, it sounds like some futuristic food substitute (i.e. Soylent Green. F.Y.I. That’s people, people.) Ew.
There’s another little wrinkle. You see, energy bars sound like healthy food for health food’s sake. If you tell me to eat something just because it’s healthy, I’ll ask you to pass me a stick of butter and a fork. I’m contrary. I’m sorry. I do try to reform, but it’s me on a cellular level. I’m the original rebel without a cause.
Here comes issue number three. I’m cheap. We’ve been down this road before once or twice. I’ve walked many a time past the gigantic displays of energy bars -Larabars, Clif, Luna, Grouchy, Sleepy, Dumpy- and laughed derisively at the prices. A buck or more a bar? HA HA! In order to get one for everyone in my family I’d have to spend nearly ten dollars. Ten dollars for one snack? Not happening.
So, given all this information, I would’ve been the last person I would expect to perfect a homemade energy bar. Here’s how it happened.
Somehow or another, I found myself with a bunch of dates that were nearing the end of their usefulness. I remembered my step-mom making raw cookies a while back and thought I’d give it a whirl. Literally. Because they’re made in the food processor. Ba-dum-bum. I’ll be here all week folks. Tip jar is on the piano.
One thing led to another, dates in the food processor led to chocolate chips and almonds and before I knew it, I was pressing an ugly but delicious paste into a parchment lined pan and whacking the whole thing into the refrigerator to get firm. The next morning, I pulled the parchment wrapped slab-o-dates/almonds/chocolate out of the pan, cut it into squares and called my small regiment of taste testers to the room.
I blinked, as humans are wont to do, and when I opened my eyes, there were mere crumbs left on the cutting board and I was surrounded by big-eyed, finger-licking, hollow-legged, teen and pre-teen boys who were not-so-innocently inquiring as to whether or not I had a second pan hidden somewhere in that refrigerator. As a matter of fact, I did. Because I had foreseen this possibility, I pressed the mixture into three separate pans but I sure wasn’t going to tell THEM that. No way. I wanted it to last more than one day.
The next day, I cut up the two remaining pans into bars and took them to the farmers’ market in Angelica to share with the other vendors. As the adults scarfed the bars much in the same way my kids had, I heard one vendor say, “These taste like Snickers bars. Are you sure they’re good for me?”
So where does the Larabar of the recipe title come into all of this? A friend asked me what was held the bars together. When I told her it was a base of ground dates she exclaimed, “OH! It’s a homemade Larabar!” A quick perusal of the Larabar website proved my friend correct. And here I eat crow on the first two reasons I avoided energy bars. But I maintain my cheapness with pride and this recipe helps me do that. Cheap, yummy and healthy? I’ll eat to that.
Count me among the converted. For those of you who, like me, have balked at the whole energy bar fad, let me tell you why this is handy to have around. Tuck one or two in lunch boxes or bags, grab one when you’re ravenous and still hours from a proper meal, slide one into a sandwich bag and then into your jacket pocket to sustain you on long fall walks or hikes, or just plain nibble when you get peckish. It’s mainly fruit and nuts with a little dark chocolate thrown in to boot. How can you lose?
- When choosing the dates for your homemade larabars, you should try to choose ones that are moist and not over-dry. This makes your finished bars much better texturally, not to mention making it easier on your food processor to blend the whole shebang.
- The choice of raw or toasted almonds is a matter of personal preference. I like them toasted for that little extra nuttiness it imparts, but my husband prefers it raw. Either way is delicious!
- I use whichever natural nut butter we have on hand -most often peanut butter- but sunflower butter, almond butter, and peanut butter work equally well.
Use these to make Homemade Larabars
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- 4 cups whole pitted dates (moist ones work best)
- 2 cups raw or toasted whole shelled almonds
- 1 cup chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
- 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter or sunflower or cashew butter, divided (or more, if necessary)
- Line a 9-inch x 13-inch straight sided pan with a piece of parchment paper so that the paper hangs over the long edges. Set aside.
- Fit a food processor with a metal blade. Add the almonds to the processor and pulse until they are uniformly finely chopped (think fresh bread crumb texture.) Add the chocolate chips and pulse again until the chocolate chips are also finely chopped.
- Pour the chocolately nuts into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- Add half of the dates to the food processor and process until a paste forms and clumps together in the workbowl. Open the food processor and add in 1 tablespoon of the nut butter and half of the chocolatey ground nuts. Replace the lid and process until evenly combined. Scrape into the prepared pan.
- Repeat with the remaining dates, chocolatey nuts and nut butter.
- When all of the ingredients have been thus processed, wet your hands and use them to press the mixture as evenly over the bottom of the pan as possible. Fold the excess parchment over the bars to cover them and use something flat and heavy to press down firmly on the mixture until it is smooth.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before moving onto the slicing.
- Use the excess parchment paper like a sling to transfer the now-firm bars from the pan to a large cutting board.
- Cut into desired size (I prefer 30 squares) and store in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container. An unrefrigerated bar will be good for 48 hours, covered, at room temperature.
Love Homemade Larabars? You might love these other homemade treats!
- How to Make Croissants
- Homemade Candied Jalapenos
- Easy Salted Caramel Fudge
- Homemade Cool Ranch Doritos
- Homemade Spicy Taco Seasoning
- One-Hour Sandwich Bread
This post was originally published August 30, 2011. Updated August 30, 2017.